Moods and atmospheres are nothing new in instrumental music. Of course when Brian Eno firmly established ambient music on his famous Music For Aiports album – a concept born from Eno being stuck in an actual airport, surrounded with nothing but the tense, uninspiring sound that befits those vacuous spaces. This new ambiance did however make popular modern music seem as though it had travelled a long way from the days of Robert Johnson‘s guitar, or Fats Domino‘s piano. With today’s moods often formed inside computers, the endless array of samples, mixes, loops and shades are relatively easy to obtain. If ambiance has an infinite, electronic feel to it, then the computer is surely it’s perfect mother.
Today’s mood protagonist is IAmForest, a producer, real name Luke Hartle, from North Vancouver, Canada. That’s not to say this solo artist delivers us ambient music in the purest sense, his productions are a way on from Brian Eno’s, but his electronic instrumentals are dripping in moods and atmospheres. There’s also a regular beat, allowing the swirl of sounds to be harnessed. This is ambient, this is atmospheric, but it doesn’t meander, it has momentum. However, this is music devoid of grip, as it never collects detritus as it rolls along, rather it remains pure and weightless. Considering the dense blend he whips up, it’s surprising that it soars as if gravity never existed.
There’s not just one theme on offer with Hartle though, as there’s something of a schizophrenic story to his releases so far, which provides a relief from the monotony that ambient electronic music such as this can suffer from. Since he began writing music he found himself creating work that covered two very different genres, from acoustic folk to electronic instrumentals. Instead of blending both of these genres, he decided to keep them separate by creating and releasing two very differing EPs at the same time last year. His Forest EP shows off his electronic side, pulsating through three warm, lush tracks. The second was Meadows, an entirely acoustic set of six tracks, with guitars and vocals throughout.
Consider the difference between CFCF and Bright Eyes. They really couldn’t be more different if they tried, which could be construed in different ways. Either he is an artist that’s lost and simply cannot decide who he wants to be musically, or he is an artist that is so multi-talented that he can fire off a variety of music across the genres. We prefer to consider the latter, as both EPs are truly wonderful. What knits them together is his ability to form an atmosphere. Whether it’s in the lonely log cabins of Canada’s wilderness, or the pulsating, tropical warmth of a South East Asian paradise, his touch is in surrounding you in it.
Both are currently available on a pay-what-you-wish system on his Bandcamp right now. Moving on since those first EPs arrived, we’ve now been treated to two more recent tunes. Luang Prabang came out towards the end of last year and we think it shows us the fusion he’s been hunting for all this time. Pretty acoustics are paired up with the drive of a four beat and a swirl of electronic samples. The electrified, atmospheric acoustics continue with his most recent track, Structures, which arrived last month. This time the beauty of an echoing guitar string isn’t just married up with a wash of pulsing beats, but his voice delivers the final piece of the puzzle. It’s an astonishing track, a real mood maker, a real triumph of ideas.
Moods and atmospheres may not be new in modern music, but this artist manages to produce a master-class in how to wrap you up in music. Instead of falling in the gaps between genres, he’s forged a bridge that’s as strong as any contemporaries. Thoughtful, private, headphone music such as this is no simple thing to design, but by battling his own ideas he has harnessed the right formula between them all. We will try and keep you posted as to any new releases, but for now it seems he is striding confidently on the right path. By stepping away from the keyboard and into a world of acoustics – the anti-computer if you will – this artist has been able to return to the electronics armed with a more rounded sound. And that is a lesson to all today’s modern musicians; just because the laptop seems like it enables them, firing off a limitless round of ideas, they may not actually realise their potential until they add more strings to the bow. (MB)
IAMFOREST – STRUCTURES
IAMFOREST – LUANG PRABANG